Funeral Pre-Planning F it may be your purchase

it may be your
third largest
Funeral Pre-Planning
A publication and partnership of Baltimore County Department of Aging and Patuxent Publishing Company
from the County Executive
Dear Baltimore County Residents,
Discussing funeral planning is often difficult and sensitive, but
every year over two million Americans are involved in this task.
Unexpectedly and with no experience or knowledge of the process,
individuals may be faced with planning a funeral for a loved one.
A newer trend has surfaced giving individuals the option to pre-plan
their funerals. Pre-planning ensures that an individual has a part in
the planning process and receives what they prefer. Pre-planning
can also alleviate some of the anxiety of a grieving family member.
Since so many citizens face the responsibility of planning or pre-planning a funeral, the Baltimore
County Department of Aging has produced a consumer tool to guide the process, It May Be Your
Third Largest Purchase. It is with pride that I present this booklet to our county’s residents in an
effort to promote better understanding of the planning process and the rights of consumers.
Jim Smith
Baltimore County Executive
from the Baltimore County Council
Planning for a funeral can be very stressful. We are pleased to present this book from the Baltimore County Department of Aging to assist you in the process. It is our hope that the information
will help those assuming responsibility for planning a funeral for a family member or friend. We
are grateful to Patuxent Publishing Company for their partnership with the Department of Aging
in producing this useful resource.
Baltimore County Council
S.G. Samuel Moxley, District 1
Kevin Kamenetz, District 2
T. Bryan McIntire, District 3
Kenneth N. Oliver, District 4
Vincent J. Gardina, District 5
Joseph Bartenfelder, District 6
John Olszewski, Sr., District 7
Funeral Pre-Planning 2007
from the Director
Dear Fellow Residents,
The Baltimore County Department of Aging is pleased to present
It May Be Your Third Largest Purchase another in our continuing
effort to better inform older residents and their families. Whether
unexpectedly faced with planning a funeral or being proactive in preplanning your own funeral, having the appropriate tools available is
key. This guide outlines the elements of pre-need planning as well
as the many decisions faced by all of us. Learn what is required in
Maryland and what elements are optional. Discover your rights as a
consumer and the resources to investigate concerns.
I want to thank Patuxent Publishing Company for their partnership in producing It May Be Your
Third Largest Purchase. Their support was essential in producing this important booklet.
Arnold Eppel
The Baltimore County Commission on Aging
Members: Cynthia D. Allen, Chair, Patricia P. Brannan, Laurie S. Frank, Lacy Flynn,
Barbara Gradet, Ilka Linton, Eula Marshall, Mabel Murray, Ed.D., Anne Z. Perry, Stanley Roll,
Margaret Ruppersberger, Marlene B. Siegel, Catherine M. Ward
Special recognition to Steven Sklar, National Deathcare Regulatory Consultant, for his expertise
in updating this publication, originally printed in 1998. Many thanks also to Roberta Nevitt who
worked so diligently on the first printing of this booklet.
Thanks to the staff of the Department of Aging who contributed to the production of this booklet:
Laura Riley, Project Manager, as well as Christina Bergman, Rheka Bhave, Jason Frank, and Ethel
Rasmussen. Norma Nash, Deputy Director, is to be thanked for her ongoing support of so many
worthy projects.
Special thanks to Patuxent Publishing for the public-private partnership, which allowed the
publication of this useful resource.
Arnold Eppel, Director of the Baltimore County Department of Aging, deserves special recognition for his strong ongoing commitment to the publication of consumer reference materials for
seniors and their families. Without his vision and desire to educate Baby Boomers and their aging families of Baltimore County, this publication would not have been possible.
Funeral Pre-Planning 2007
Table of Contents
Chapter 1: Peace of Mind ...................................................................................................5
Chapter 2: Elements of a Pre-Need Plan ..........................................................................8
Chapter 3: Funeral Facts from the Federal Trade Commission ..................................14
Chapter 4: Services of the Funeral Home or Funeral Director ...................................17
Chapter 5: Services of a Cemetery, Mausoleum or Columbarium.............................19
Chapter 6: Services of the Crematorium ........................................................................21
Chapter 7: Disposition of the Cremated Remains ........................................................21
Chapter 8: Services of a Memorial Society ....................................................................22
Chapter 9: Green Burials and Eco-Friendly Choices....................................................23
Chapter 10: Markers, Headstones and Monuments ......................................................25
Chapter 11: If Death Occurs Out-of-Town ......................................................................26
Chapter 12: Costs: What’s Included in the General Price List ......................................27
Chapter 13: Ways to Reduce Costs ...................................................................................31
Chapter 14: Things to Do After You Have Made the Funeral and
Burial/Cremation Arrangements ................................................................33
Chapter 15: Paying for the Funeral...................................................................................34
Chapter 16: Before the Need Arises – Arranging a Pre-Need Contract ......................35
Chapter 17: What to Do if You Have Complaints ..........................................................36
Chapter 18: Resources ........................................................................................................37
Funeral Pre-Planning 2007
Your funeral may be the third largest purchase you make, after your house and your car. If
you were called upon to plan a funeral today, would you know what needed to be done and
what options were available?
The average cost of a funeral is $5,300-$8,500, says R. E. Markin in The Affordable Funeral:
Going out in Style, Not in Debt. This does not include the burial plot or mausoleum; liner or
vault; opening and closing the grave; a marker or headstone or other charges for interment.
With these charges included, the total may be more than $10,000.
This is an uncomfortable subject. Often, we avoid even thinking about our own mortality
or the mortality of a loved one. We may feel that planning for the inevitable will cause it to
happen sooner, or that we are not being loyal or supportive to a loved one who is ill. The
whole business of funerals raises many issues that are difficult to face.
Advance planning for your own funeral, or that of a loved one, is accepting responsibility for
planning for the inevitable. It allows you to take charge of how people remember you and
how they will celebrate your life. It can also save your survivors the burden of making the
arrangements while they are grieving and it can save you money because a well-educated
funeral consumer usually gets more for the funeral dollar and spends less.
This booklet outlines the steps, the decisions and the choices you will have as you plan your
own funeral or that of a loved one. No matter how much or how little you plan, write it down
and talk to your family about your plans. All your plans will mean nothing if no one knows
what they are, or where your written instructions can be easily located. Instruct the family to
put it in a safe and easily accessible place.
1: Peace of Mind
WHAT should I include?
WHY should I make my own plans?
HOW do I start?
Pre-need planning is simply making decisions and planning in advance what will happen
to a person’s body after that person dies.
Pre-planning means:
• You can plan the way that you and your life will be remembered.
• You can get the best value for your money.
• You can spare your family the stress of making important decisions
Funeral Pre-Planning 2007
while they are mourning.
• You can have control over what happens.
• You can spare your family members possible conflicts about what to do.
• Your family or friends will have a plan and can make decisions based on your wishes,
not on guesses.
• You can take time to shop for the items and services you want at a price you are
comfortable paying.
• You can avoid placing the responsibility on distant family or friends if you have no
immediate family.
Why should I pre-plan?
If you don’t pre-plan, you leave the arrangements in the hands of family and/or friends. This
may work out well. Your children or spouse or friends may do a fantastic job of planning for
your funeral. However, what if you are the last member of your family? What if your sons
and daughters are living abroad, or on a backpacking trip in Yosemite without a cell phone?
Suppose your wife and your children don’t agree on what to do. What if? What if?
There are three elements to a pre-need plan:
1. Giving thought to how you want your burial, cremation or donation to be conducted.
2. Recording that information where it will be easily accessible after your death.
3. Telling significant people in your life that you have a plan and where it is recorded so they
can act on it when the time comes.
Pre-need planning does not necessarily include signing a contract or paying in advance,
though you may choose to do these things if it is helpful to you in completing your plan.
It is important to discuss your plan with your family and friends as you are making it or
when it is complete so that you can answer their questions and hear their comments.
For example:
• Do you want to be buried? If so, where? In the family plot, or in a veterans’ cemetery, or at sea, or
with your second husband, or in a mausoleum, or under your favorite tree?
• Do you want to be cremated and have your ashes buried in your cemetery lot, or scattered at sea, or
in your favorite forest, or given to your family?
• Do you want to donate your body to science?
• Do you want family and friends to get together during visitation hours at the funeral home or would
you prefer not to have a viewing and instead have friends and family meet at a memorial service or
a celebration?
To answer questions like those above, your plan may include some, or all, of the following:
General guidance such as:
I want to be embalmed.
I want to be buried next to my mother (make sure grave space is available).
I don’t want a viewing but rather a memorial service.
I want to be cremated and wish my remains to be scattered in my garden.
Funeral Pre-Planning 2007
Specific details such as:
• I wish to be buried by ABC Funeral Home from their location at 11 Park Avenue.
• I want a two-day viewing to allow out-of-town family to arrive.
• I want to be buried in Casket # 1234 from the XYZ Casket Company;
their web site is
• I wish to be buried at Memorial Park at 123 Central Avenue, in the family plot
next to my second wife.
Financial arrangements such as:
• I have set aside money in a joint account with my daughter, Mary Jane Smith, at the City
Bank branch at 56 Main Street, to be used for my cremation. (This arrangement is not
binding after death.)
• I have set up a trust; the papers are filed with my attorney, John Jones at 789 Green Road,
phone 410-234-5555.
• I have completed a prepaid contract with the ABC Funeral Home on Center Street;
contact Mr. Cain, telephone 410-555-0000.
Pre-need planning may, but does not necessarily include either signing a contract or paying
in advance.
Developing a plan
Often when you shop for something you need, especially if it’s expensive, you go through
several steps to decide which model you want and where to buy it. When you buy a car for
example, you may first decide on the features you want and the price you are willing to pay.
Then you may look at several similar products that offer the features you want, compare
prices, evaluate the convenience of buying from a particular dealer and check on the dealer’s
reputation. You may even review the ratings in a consumer buying guide. Only after this
evaluation of your options do you decide on the dealer and the exact car you want. You are
just as careful when you buy a house.
Why not apply the same practices when it comes to arranging for your third largest purchase?
Most of us don’t start thinking about a funeral by asking ourselves, “Exactly what do I want?”
and “How much am I willing to pay?” Most of us don’t comparison shop for features or
prices; we simply walk into a funeral home and say, “Tell me what to do.” The result is that
we often don’t know all the options; we don’t know all the services available; we don’t
know which ones are required by law and which are optional, nor the price range for each
item. In this booklet, we will discuss the most common questions about funeral planning
and describe options and possibilities. We will also review what Maryland state law requires
for funerals and burials. Well-educated funeral consumers usually get more for their funeral
dollar and spend less.
When should I begin?
It is never too soon to start making your own plan. The pages that follow can serve as a
guide for you in developing a pre-need plan for yourself, or someone you love. You may find
it helpful to record the information. Do not place your plans in your safety deposit box, since
that may not be immediately accessible to your family or friends.
Funeral Pre-Planning 2007
2: Elements of a Pre-need Plan
What should a plan include?
What if I only want to make some of the decisions?
What if I change my mind later?
A helpful first step in pre-need planning for a funeral is to decide the final arrangement for
the body, because most decisions cannot be made until this question is answered. There are
essentially three options for the final disposition of the body: burial, cremation or donation
of the body to science. This is a very individual choice that may be influenced by religious,
spiritual, social or financial considerations.
Often the second step is to decide whether there will be a service and, if so, will the body be
present (a funeral service), or will it be held without the body present (a memorial service)
and/or will it be at the graveside.
A useful third step to ask yourself is who do you want to coordinate your funeral? Do you
want a traditional process, coordinated by a funeral director, or will your family and friends
want to handle the process themselves?
No matter how much or how little you decide upon in advance; discuss your plans with your
family to make sure they are comfortable carrying out your wishes. Write your plans down
and tell family and friends where your written instructions are located. If you move, or for
other reasons change your mind, be sure to update your written plan.
STEP ONE - Disposition of the Body
Earth Burial - The body of the deceased is placed in the ground and covered over with earth.
The body is frequently in a casket, though that is not required by law. Some people prefer
wrapping the body in cloth (a shroud) or using a more easily biodegradable container.
What do you need for an earth burial?
• A place where the ground can be excavated to an appropriate depth, generally a plot in
a cemetery. If home burial is desired, contact the State Board of Morticians and Funeral
Directors regarding any regulations that may apply (410-764-4792).
• A container or covering for the body. Often a casket, but it can be a shroud or
other option.
• People and equipment to dig the grave and lower the body into the grave. If using a
cemetery, they will provide staff and equipment.
Funeral Pre-Planning 2007
• A vault or liner, if required by the cemetery.
• A grave marker. The cemetery may require a specific type of marker. If not, you may
choose a marker, tombstone or monument. An alternative would be to plant a tree or
flowers to mark the gravesite.
• Care of the gravesite, building and grounds. The cemetery may require that you purchase
this service, often called perpetual care. See the cemetery contract for a definition of
this service and the cost. (Maryland law requires perpetual care cemeteries to deduct
– not add – at least 10% of the purchase price of the burial space be deposited in a state
regulated trust fund.)
Entombment - The body is placed in a casket which is put in an above-ground structure
called a mausoleum. Mausoleums are usually on the grounds of a cemetery.
What do you need for an entombment?
A casket.
A crypt in a mausoleum (the space in which the casket is placed).
Staff to open and close the crypt.
A marker with the deceased’s name and other information. This may be required by the
• Care of the mausoleum site. The same perpetual care provisions of earth burial apply.
Embalming is not required by law except in cases of death from communicable disease
or, in some cases, if the body is to be transported across state lines by a common carrier.
Embalming may help deter deterioration of the body for a short period of time. Refrigeration
may be another choice used to slow deterioration. Your plan for the rest of the process, the
length of time until the body is buried and religious dictates will help you determine if
embalming is necessary. If you wish embalming, it will be done by the funeral home.
In this process, the body is placed in a furnace with very high heat until the body is reduced
to small fragments of bone. There will be about 7-10 pounds of cremated remains (ashes).
What do you need for a cremation?
• Usually, a container to hold the body as it is placed in the crematory. There is no reason
it need be a formal, expensive casket; it can be an alternative container of cardboard or
pressboard. However, some crematories do not require any container.
• A receptacle to hold the ashes; this may be a simple cardboard container, a handmade urn
or another suitable receptacle.
• A plan for the disposition of the ashes. Choices include earth burial, placement in a
columbarium (a building with niches for holding urns), sea burial, scattering on land
or water or retention by family. There are many other creative options including having
them fused into living coral or sent into space. Federal law specifically regulates burial at
sea. Some states, notably California, also have additional laws restricting the scattering of
ashes. Make sure to check the law before you proceed; in Maryland call the Department
of Health and Mental Hygiene, Board of Morticians and Funeral Directors at 410-764-4792
for information about specific circumstances.
Funeral Pre-Planning 2007
In this process the entire body is given to a medical school for use in teaching students. Some
receiving institutions require the family to pay for transportation of the body. Donations to
the Maryland State Anatomy Board are at no cost to the family if the death happens within
the state of Maryland. If the death occurs out-of-state, the family may be asked to pay for
transportation, or the body may be donated to an institution that is closer. Most will return
the cremated remains of the deceased if that is the request of the family. Some schools will not
accept a body if the death was due to trauma, or for other reasons. Therefore it is important
to make these arrangements in advance (in Maryland, bodies of pre-enrolled individuals are
not rejected).
What is needed in order to donate a body to a medical school?
• Prior arrangements should be made for this alternative, since not every medical school
accepts direct donations. In Maryland contact:
The State Anatomy Board
Department of Health and Mental Hygiene
655 West Baltimore Street, Bressler Research Building, Room B-026
Baltimore, Maryland 21201
• A plan for the final disposition of the ashes. In Maryland, the Anatomy Board will bury
them on the third Monday in June in a dedicated gravesite in Sykesville, Maryland, unless
the family requests that they be returned to them. They also hold a memorial service at this
You may also donate specific organs or tissue for transplant or use in research. In Maryland,
information regarding your wish to donate may be listed on your driver’s license. If you wish,
visit your local Motor Vehicle Administration office and request that your license indicate
that you want to be an organ donor. You may also contact the Living Legacy Foundation at 410242-7000 for further information. Discuss your desire to be a donor with your family, since
they will be responsible for consenting to the donation.
There are a number of other, usually very expensive, options including mummification and
freezing that will not be discussed here. For information on these, check your local library, the
Internet, or ask a local funeral director.
STEP TWO - The Ceremony
Traditional Funeral Service (Service with the body present)
This may well be the most expensive choice because of the amount of time and services
provided by the funeral home and funeral director. It has become the most common type of
funeral in the United States over the last 50 years.
In this choice, the funeral director arranges for the body to be delivered to the funeral home,
where it is prepared for an open or closed casket funeral. (This does not require embalming
Funeral Pre-Planning 2007
except in certain circumstances; see previous discussion.) If an open casket viewing is planned,
preparation may include bathing, dressing and the application of cosmetics and hair dressing.
Finally, the body is placed in a casket.
A “viewing“ or “visitation” may be held when the family and friends receive visitors in the
presence of the body, which may be in an open or closed casket. This is often conducted at
the funeral home, but may be done at home or in a church, social hall or other location. If you
choose an alternative location, you may be responsible for making the arrangements.
A service, whether religious or secular, may be conducted with the body present.
Transportation of the body to the place of burial is usually done by the funeral home, though
the family or friends may do this as long as they have the completed death certificate with
them which includes the Transit Permit. It is advisable to call the hospital or nursing facility
in advance to make sure they will permit the family to transport the body from their facility.
A graveside service, religious or secular, may be offered before the body is buried.
In some traditions, the burial of the body may include lowering the body into the grave, but
in others, this step is not performed in the presence of the mourners.
Alternative or Non-Traditional Funeral Service
This may be a modified version of the traditional funeral service, perhaps limiting some
aspect, such as not embalming the body, not having a viewing, or having an immediate burial.
A funeral director would coordinate this plan. An alternative funeral may also be more like
what our ancestors did, for example - preparing and viewing the body at home, and burying
the body on one’s own land or having a memorial service at a fraternal hall, synagogue,
temple or church. There has been a resurgence of interest in taking care of the dead at home,
and a number of excellent books on this topic exist. (See the resource list at the end of this
book for further information.)
Memorial Service (Service without the body present)
Generally held a week or more after the burial, a memorial service is a way to formally
honor the memory of the deceased. It can be as simple or elaborate as you choose. You may
invite everyone in town or only close friends. A traditional memorial service might include
music and/or singing; readings from poetry, spiritual sources or the person’s own work;
remembrances from family and/or friends; dedication of a memorial scholarship, garden,
library, etc. or any other way to help people remember and honor the person who died. The
service may be conducted in a church, synagogue, social or fraternal hall, home, outdoors or
at any location suitable for the number of people expected to attend.
Graveside Service/Interment Service
This may follow a funeral service, or may be conducted when a direct burial with no funeral
service is chosen. It may be simple or elaborate. It generally includes a brief religious or
secular service of remembrance and may include lowering the casket into the grave.
No Ceremony
Not having a ceremony is an acceptable alternative. Some people wish to have no formal
ceremonies; others may have outlived family and friends. A ceremony is meant to serve the
Funeral Pre-Planning 2007
purposes of remembering the deceased and helping the living. If a ceremony will not serve
these purposes, perhaps it is not necessary.
STEP THREE - Who will coordinate the plan?
A Funeral Director
You may choose a funeral director in advance. You may want to review price lists, ask friends
for references, or choose the home that your family has always used or one that is conveniently
located. Discuss the options offered and write your choices down. You may prepay, or you
may keep the list and tell your family your decisions.
A Memorial Society
A memorial society does not coordinate funeral arrangements at the time of death, though
they may be able to offer some advice. However, they can be most helpful in planning preneed arrangements. In Maryland, call the Funeral Consumers Alliance of Maryland and
Environs at 301-564-0006.
Family and/or friends may coordinate all of the aspects of a burial or cremation. They
may prepare the body for viewing (not embalming, but washing, dressing and arranging),
transport the body, have the viewing or visitation at a location of their choice and bury the
body on private land. Performing all of these tasks will probably take more than one person,
and the people who choose to do this will need the support of other family members and
friends. This is the way many funerals and burials were conducted until the early 1900’s.
If you are interested in having family and/or friends coordinate your funeral, start now to
help them prepare. There are several books that provide detailed information. (See the list of
resources at the end of this booklet.)
If you wish someone other than a family member to arrange your funeral, it would be helpful
to make this designation in writing and sign it so as to avoid any questions after your death.
Funeral Pre-Planning 2007
Comparison of Relative Costs of Types of Funerals
Body to
Prearrangement suggested. Body
is used by one of the medical
institutions in the state.
No cost if death occurs in Maryland. Anatomy
Board of Maryland will pay to transport the
body if death occurs in Maryland. They will
cremate the remains when finished and bury
them at a dedicated site with a memorial
service, or by request, return them to family.
A family member or friend serves The costs will not include a purchased
as the funeral coordinator. A
casket, burial plot or mausoleum, a vault
or liner for the grave, a cemetery gravesite,
funeral home is not used at all;
disposition of the body on private a grave marker, opening and closing the
land; a memorial service at home grave, hearse, limousine, flower cars, paid
or in a church, temple, synagogue, pallbearers or the services of the funeral
fraternal hall, etc.
director. The costs will include materials for
handmade casket or shroud, and any other
costs associated with the arrangements, such
as rental of a hall.
The provider takes the body
The costs need not include a traditional
from the place of death directly
casket. Your can use an alternative container.
(A memorial to crematorium. The family and
No embalming needed, not viewing, so no
service may friends conduct the memorial
use of the funeral home for that purpose, no
be held later) service later at home or in a
need for vault or liner, no cemetery plot or
church, temple, synagogue,
mausoleum needed (unless you wish to place
fraternal hall, etc.
the ashes there), no grave opening or closing,
no marker needed unless you bury the ashes,
or place them in a niche in a columbarium.
Societies are committed to simple, Memorial societies assist in pre-planning
low-cost funerals. Members
funerals and may work with local funeral
receive information and assistance providers who are willing to provide low-cost
in pre-planning a funeral.
Direct Burial The provider takes the body from May use a less expensive casket or a plain
(A memorial the place of death to the funeral
wooden box. No embalming or viewing, so no
service may home briefly for a casket and
charges for these services.
be held later) then directly to the gravesite. The
family and friends conduct the
memorial services later at home or
in a church, synagogue, temple,
fraternal hall or other public
Body taken to funeral home for
May use more expensive casket, embalming
casket, viewing, perhaps service,
(and cosmetic or restoration work) may be
burial in cemetery.
desired if a viewing is held, use of funeral
home for viewing, burial in cemetery plot,
liner or vault may be required by cemetery, a
grave marker may be required by cemetery.
Funeral Pre-Planning 2007
3: Funeral Facts from the
Federal Trade Commission
Can a funeral director make me buy specific items?
Can I buy my casket on the Internet?
I’m planning cremation; do I have to buy a casket?
The Federal Trade Commission Funeral Rule (Part 453-Funeral Industry Practices Revised
Rule) went into effect on April 30, 1984. It was revised July 19, 1994 and is still in effect.
Copies of the current regulations may be obtained from the Federal Trade Commission,
Washington, DC, 20580 or from their website At the website, use the search
feature and enter “Funeral Industry Practices Revised Rule” for a full copy of the material.
Many consumers have reported that despite the existence of the Rule, some funeral providers
continue to engage in prohibited practices. Knowing the facts can help you get honest, reliable
information and accurate prices.
The following facts are from Facts for Consumers - Funerals: A Consumer’s Guide and Complying
with the Funeral Rule, both published by the Federal Trade Commission.
The Funeral Rule requires funeral providers to give consumers accurate, itemized price
information and various other disclosures about funeral goods and services. It also prohibits
the funeral provider from:
Misrepresenting legal, crematory, and cemetery requirements.
Embalming for a fee without permission.
Requiring the purchase of a casket for direct cremation.
Requiring consumers to buy certain goods or services as a condition for furnishing other
funeral goods or services.
• Engaging in other deceptive or unfair practices.
Most people are willing to pay for what they want; the key to controlling the cost of a funeral
is to choose only those items or services that you want. The Funeral Rule, Section 453.4,
Purchase of Funeral Goods or Funeral Services, states that the funeral home must inform the
consumer in writing on the General Price List of this right to choose. The required wording
is: Charges are only for those items that you selected or that are required. If we are required by law or
by a cemetery or crematory to use an item, we will explain the reason in writing below.
Other portions of the Funeral Rule cover:
Price Disclosures
• If you inquire about funeral arrangements in person, the funeral home must give you a
Funeral Pre-Planning 2007
written price list of goods and services (often referred to as the General Price List). This
should contain the cost of each funeral item and service offered.
• If you inquire about funeral arrangements by telephone, the funeral provider must give
you prices and other information from price lists to answer your questions reasonably.
• The provider must offer you a General Price List when you begin to discuss any of the
following: the type of funeral or disposition that the provider can arrange, the specific
goods and services provided and the prices of these goods and services.
• If a specific state law requires you to purchase an item or service, the specific law must be
disclosed on the itemized statement of goods and services selected.
Embalming Information
• The funeral provider must give consumers information about embalming. Under the Rule,
a funeral provider:
– May not falsely state that embalming is required by state law.
– Must disclose in writing that embalming is not required by law, except in certain special
– May not charge a fee for unauthorized embalming unless embalming is required by
state law.
– Will disclose in writing that you usually have the right to choose a disposition - such as
direct cremation or immediate burial - if you do not want embalming.
– Will disclose to you in writing that certain funeral arrangements, such as a funeral with
a viewing, may make embalming a practical necessity and, so, require a purchase.
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Cash Advance Sales
• The funeral provider must disclose in writing if they charge a fee for buying cash
advance items (goods or services that the funeral provider pays for on your behalf).
Examples of cash advance items include flowers, death notices, pallbearers, and clergy
honoraria. Some providers charge you their cost, and others add a service fee to the cost.
The Funeral Rule requires that funeral providers tell you when a service fee is added to
the price of cash advance items, or if there are refunds, discounts, or rebates from the
supplier of any cash advance item.
Caskets for Cremation
• If you choose direct cremation (cremation of the deceased without a viewing or other
ceremony where the body is present), the funeral provider must offer an “alternative
container” to hold the body. An alternative container is a nonmetal enclosure pressboard, cardboard or canvas - to hold the deceased.
• Funeral homes that offer direct cremation:
– Are prohibited from telling you that state or local law requires a casket for direct
– Must disclose in writing your right to buy an unfinished wood box or an alternative
container for direct cremation.
– Must make an unfinished wood box or alternative container available for direct
Required Purchases
• You do not have to buy goods or services you don’t want, or pay any fees as a condition
for obtaining the products and services you do want, except one permitted fee (the basic
services fee) for the services of the funeral director and staff. You must pay the fees for the
goods and services you select or state law requires.
– You have the right to choose the goods and services you want, with some exceptions.
– The funeral provider must disclose this right in writing on the General Price List.
– The funeral provider must disclose the specific state law that requires you to purchase
any particular item on your itemized statement of goods and services selected.
– The funeral provider may not refuse, or charge a fee, to handle a casket you bought
Statement of Funeral Goods and Services Selected
• The funeral provider must give you an itemized statement of the total cost of the funeral
goods and services you select. This statement must include, in one place:
– The prices of individual items you are considering.
– The total price.
– Any legal, cemetery, or crematory requirements that require you to purchase any
specific funeral goods or services.
• You can then decide whether to add or subtract items.
Preservative and Protective Claims
• The Funeral Rule prohibits the funeral provider from telling you that particular funeral
goods or services can preserve the body of the deceased for a long time or indefinitely;
embalming will not preserve the body indefinitely.
• The Rule prohibits funeral providers from making claims that funeral goods, such as caskets
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or vaults, will keep out water, dirt, or other graveside substances if that is not true.
Other Misrepresentation
• Other kinds of misrepresentation, though not specifically prohibited by the Funeral Rule,
are nonetheless illegal.
The Funeral Rule is also enforced in Maryland by the State Board of Morticians and Funeral
4: Service of the Funeral Home
or Funeral Director
What should I do?
Will they take care of everything?
What will they need to know?
Years ago they were called morticians, then funeral directors and now some are being called
grief counselors, and they can be very helpful to you as you pre-plan a funeral. However,
whatever they are called, remember that the person you talk to is also a salesman or
saleswoman who is in business to make a profit. As Jessica Mitford noted in The American
Way of Death:
...the funeral transaction is generally influenced by a combination of circumstances which bear upon
the buyer as in no other type of business dealing: the disorientation caused by bereavement, the lack of
standards by which to judge the value of the commodity offered by the seller, the need to make an onthe-spot decision, general ignorance of the law as it affects disposal of the dead, the ready availability of
insurance money to finance the transaction. These factors predetermine to a large extent the outcome
of the transaction.
The funeral home or funeral director may be able to supply all the funeral goods and services
that you might need to care for and prepare the body for burial, cremation, or other final
disposition and to arrange, supervise, or conduct the funeral ceremony or final disposition.
Keep in mind that cemeteries also sell some of these same goods like caskets, liners, vaults
and grave memorials. Monument dealers sell memorials also. The consumer has a choice of
sellers for these goods.
The funeral home may or may not be affiliated with a cemetery, and may or may not sell
outer burial containers such as vaults and liners. The funeral provider may or may not own
a crematory, but can usually arrange for cremation.
The funeral director is available to help you arrange the funeral you want. While he or she
may wish to provide all the goods and services, it is possible to obtain services only for the
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things you want. The law says that he or she is prohibited from requiring you to buy
certain funeral goods or services as a condition for furnishing other funeral goods or
services. If you wish to provide the casket from another source for example, he or she cannot
charge you a handling fee. If you wish the viewing in your home or a church, synagogue,
temple or another facility and want the funeral home only to prepare the body, then it must
provide only that service. There is, however, a basic services fee for overhead expenses that
you cannot refuse included in the price of every funeral. (See discussion of basic services fee
on page 27)
A funeral home may offer “packages” that include “everything you need.” If you are interested,
please review these carefully. Like many packages, they may include services or goods you
do not need or want and may exclude things you do want. Also, remember that he or she
charges for the goods and services provided, like picking up copies of the death certificate
and providing a guest registry and thank you notes. If cost is an issue, consider providing
some of these things yourself.
Sometimes you are most comfortable using the firm that buried your parents and grandparents,
or you may prefer to comparison shop for the lowest price, or the most convenient location
or some other feature important to you. However you choose the funeral home, remember to
ask all the questions you need to in order to understand what you are getting and how much
you are paying.
In the last fifteen years, several large national corporations have bought local funeral homes
throughout the country and may retain the old name. When you comparison shop, remember
to check the ownership of the home. Comparing the costs and services of two homes owned
by the same company may not give you as clear a picture of local costs as comparing costs
and services of homes owned by different organizations.
Regardless of which funeral home is chosen:
When you call to schedule an appointment with the funeral director, he or she will want
to know:
• The full name of the deceased.
• The location of the body.
• The names of next of kin and the person(s) authorized to make arrangements.
At the arrangements conference, when details are worked out and a contract is prepared,
the funeral director will want to know:
• The individual’s date and place of birth, and Social Security number.
• The information about membership in a memorial society, a prepaid funeral plan, a
cemetery plot, mausoleum or other final resting place.
• The name of the guarantor for the contract.
• The basic services you wish to purchase.
• The other goods or services you want such as newspaper announcements, a guest
registry book, holy cards.
• The names of pallbearers.
• The fraternal organizations of which the deceased was a member.
Also, bring the clothing you wish the deceased to wear and a picture of the deceased (this
is helpful if you want cosmetic work or hairstyling).
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It is useful for family and/or friends to have thought about some decisions before going
to the arrangements conference. For example: Is there a budget that must adhered to? Is
a viewing planned? Will there be a cremation or a burial? Will there be a service with the
body present or a memorial service later? Will a religious ceremony be included? Should an
announcement be placed in the newspaper? Will the burial or cremation be postponed until
out-of-town family arrives? Are there religious dictates which must be honored?
5: Services of a Cemetery,
Mausoleum or Columbarium
How can I get a burial site in view of the river?
How can I have my ashes buried at my church?
How do I arrange to be buried next to my parents?
Presently, cemeteries are not regulated under Federal law. In Maryland, however, nonreligious cemeteries, their managers and salespersons are state licensed, and, there is an
Office of Cemetery Oversight that guarantees buyers and prospective buyers are afforded
certain rights. You are entitled to:
• Receive and keep, as a buyer or prospective buyer, a current General Price List which
includes specific prices for:
– Ground opening and closing.
– Extra-depth interment.
– Interment of cremated remains.
– Mausoleum entombment.
• Receive and keep a current list of price ranges for burial spaces or burial goods.
• See a balanced presentation of various cost options for those burial goods offered for sale.
• Know whether the cemetery offers perpetual care for graves, grounds and buildings or
has a care fund for memorials.
• Know that less care cannot be given to a burial space if memorials are purchased from
someplace other than the cemetery.
• Know that interest or finance charges are not allowed for pre-need burial contracts that
do not provide for goods or services to be delivered or performed before death.
• Have disclosed in writing before signing the contract:
– The itemized cost for each service to be performed.
– A statement of the cemetery’s policy on use of independent retail monument
– A copy of an authorized document indicating the specific location of any plot
• Receive a copy of a signed contract, which indicates the date, the name of the buyer,
seller, and each individual other than the buyer to whom pre-need goods or services are
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to be furnished; a description of pre-need goods or services to be provided; and the cost.
• Cancel the contract by written notification received by the seller within three business
days if a pre-need sales contract was signed in your home or anywhere else other than
the place of business of the seller.
• Cancel a pre-need contract if goods and services have not been delivered or performed
and the buyer moves more than 75 miles from the cemetery. This cancellation does not
apply to burial spaces in the ground or in a mausoleum.
• Cancel the sale of a casket at any time prior to needing the casket for burial.
If you are considering a cemetery, mausoleum or columbarium as a final resting place,
some important considerations might be:
• First decide what kind of cemetery you want to be interred in. (a commercial cemetery, a
religious cemetery, a non-profit secular cemetery or a veterans’ cemetery.)
• Location near family graves or crypts.
• Location of the facility, particularly if family and friends will visit the site frequently.
• Location within the facility, such as near trees, with a view, near a garden, etc. Is it
important that the grave or crypt be accessible to older relatives?
• Maintenance of the location - Is this a facility which provides perpetual care under the
contract? Are the grounds and the building well kept? Are the pathways clear and free
of obstacles? Tour the facility yourself, not just with the salesperson, to see how it is
• Size of the location - Are you planning for a spouse or other family members as well?
Will you need two sites, a double depth grave, or a crypt for two caskets? A double depth
grave may be less expensive.
• Requirements of the site - Some sites, especially those connected to a church, synagogue
or temple, may have requirements for burial at the site (for example, perhaps only a
member in good standing or one who received last rites may be buried there).
• Price list - Presently the Federal Trade Commission does not have rules for cemeteries but
under Maryland law they are required to give you a price list. See the beginning of this
chapter for your rights in Maryland.
• Costs - Determine all the costs of a particular site. If a burial plot is chosen, consider the
cost of the plot, fees for opening and closing the grave, cost of a liner or vault (many
cemeteries require these to help keep the ground from sinking and to make maintenance
easier), and maintenance fees. If a crypt or columbarium (a building with niches for urns
of ashes) is chosen, consider the cost of the site, the cost for opening and closing the site,
and any maintenance fees.
• Markers, headstones, monuments - Some facilities are very restrictive and allow only
certain types of markers. Check to see that what is allowed is what you want.
In summary, after choosing the cemetery, mausoleum or columbarium, carefully review the
contract, make sure that it indicates the specifics of your purchase and that you understand all
the charges. If you plan a pre-need purchase, review your rights to terminate the agreement if
you move to another town or make other plans.
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6: Services of the Crematorium
May I stay there while my husband is cremated?
Should I remove my mother’s wedding ring?
The crematorium may or may not be affiliated with a funeral home or a cemetery. However,
the funeral home or cemetery should be able to tell you about local resources. You may also
check your local telephone book under crematories and/or cremation services.
The crematorium staff will want to be sure that they have the correct body to be cremated.
Usually the identification of the body takes place before it is transferred to the crematorium.
The crematorium staff will want to know if the cremated remains (ashes) are to be placed in
a container they provide (called a “temporary” container) or in an urn or other container you
Cremation takes several hours. While most crematoriums allow family or friends to stay
during all or part of the process, you will not be able to watch the process since the high heat
required precludes viewing windows. In some faiths it is standard practice for people to “sit
watch” for the entire process. The cremated remains may weigh between 7-10 pounds, and
are sometimes called ashes or cremains.
Pacemakers must be removed by an authorized professional before cremation, since they may
explode under the high heat. The clothes and jewelry you choose for the deceased to wear
will be reduced to ashes along with the body. If you wish to keep your mother’s wedding
ring, remove it prior to cremation.
Following cremation, the cremated remains will be returned to the family or friends at the
direction of the family or authorized individual.
7: Disposition of
Cremated Remains
May I spread my mother’s ashes in her garden?
May I have my ashes spread on the beach?
May I keep my husband’s ashes at home?
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The choice of cremation allows for more options in the disposition of the remains than an
earth burial does. Choices range from interment in a gravesite or in a niche in a columbarium
to having a portion of the remains made into jewelry for family and/or friends to wear.
At the time of cremation, the crematory places the remains in what is called a temporary
container unless the family provides or purchases a more elaborate receptacle. The family
may leave the remains in this container or dispose of them any way legally permitted. You
may bury the ashes in a gravesite or place them in a niche in a columbarium (a facility with
niches for holding ashes in urns, usually on the grounds of a cemetery). If your jurisdiction
allows cremated remains to be scattered, make sure they have been pulverized and contain
no identifiable bone fragments that someone could find.
In November 1999 the Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, State Board of
Morticians issued a “Disposition of Cremated Remains Notification” which states:
The State Board of Morticians does not...require cremated remains be placed in a cemetery. This does
not mean that cremated remains can be freely scattered or otherwise disposed of upon public domain,
or upon the private property of another person. (Public domain is any land owned by Federal, State,
County or Municipal governments and includes forests, lakes, streams and most of the desert areas.)
A wide variety of legislation at the Federal and State levels currently exists covering the
disposition of cremated remains. In some states, it is not permissible to scatter ashes except
in “scattering gardens” set up specifically for that purpose. If scattering is to be done at
sea, Federal law states it must be done at least three miles from shore. In Maryland, contact
the State Board of Morticians and Funeral Directors (410-764-4792) to discuss plans before
scattering ashes, including whether permission of the prospective property’s custodian is
first required.
Carefully consider what you and your family and friends want before you act. The decision
to scatter cremated remains is a final and binding decision. Only you can decide on the
appropriate disposition for yourself or your family and friends.
8: Services of a
Memorial Society
What is a memorial society?
All memorial societies are nonprofit, aren’t they?
How do I find a memorial society in my area?
Memorial societies are cooperative, nonprofit consumer organizations that help members get
simple, dignified, and economical funerals. A society offers members information that allows
them to plan funerals in advance, and has usually compared local prices and services. They
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may have contracts with local vendors who provide low-cost, simple funerals. They do not
offer funeral services, arrange funerals themselves or collect payment for services.
In Maryland the nonprofit memorial society is the Funeral Consumers Alliance of Maryland
and Environs, Inc. Call them for information about services and membership. There is a
nominal membership fee.
Funeral Consumers Alliance of Maryland and Environs, Inc.
9601 Cedar Lane
Bethesda, MD 20814
Not every organization that uses the name “memorial society” is nonprofit, so check on the
status of any organization you are interested in joining by contacting the national Funeral
Consumers Alliance to identify nonprofit members.
Funeral Consumers Alliance
33 Patchen Road
South Burlington, VT 05403
9: Green Burials and
Eco-Friendly Choices
What is green burial?
Green burial, or natural burial, ensures the burial site remains as natural as possible in all
respects. Interment of the bodies is done in a biodegradable casket, shroud, or a favorite
blanket. No embalming fluid, no concrete vaults, no metal caskets, no toxins, no conventional
It is clear that nature has intended that our bodies be reunited with the earth. All organisms
that have lived, have died and returned to the soil...only to be recycled into new life. Nature
creates no waste. Everything is recycled.
In keeping with personal values, a natural burial site promotes growth of native trees, shrubs
and wildflowers, in turn bringing birds and other wildlife to the area. Water is not wasted,
nor are pesticides and herbicides used in attempts to control nature. Instead, a green cemetery
allows nature to take its course. (For additional information about green burials, visit www.
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Some Other Eco-Friendly Options
The principles of reduce, reuse, and recycle can be appropriately applied to death and funeral
choices. Such eco-friendly options protect our national resources, with financial savings that
will benefit your estate.
Organ and tissue donations not only represents generous and caring gifts that improve quality
of life for the recipients, the recycling of body parts is likely to reduce the recipients ultimate
medical needs.
If one is not an organ donor, body donation for medical study is an alternative way to reuse
the body. The scientific knowledge gained from medical research will reduce the medical
needs of subsequent generations.
Embalming is not required in most circumstances. Both during the embalming process and
after final disposition of the body, it is likely that some toxic fluids will be released. Even
when funeral arrangements will be delayed, refrigeration is usually an option.
The body container for use in burial that consumes the least of our resources and energy to
produce is a plain wooden box. Because glue chemicals may be released in the cremation or
decomposition process, caskets made from cardboard are even more desirable.
Cremation is a process that quickly reduces the body to its elements. The energy needed to
accomplish the cremation process is balanced to some extent by the equipment and labor
that otherwise would be needed for grave excavation, and is considerably less than for the
construction of an above-ground mausoleum. Modern cremation units operate with airscrubbing capabilities to keep air pollution to a minimum.
When death occurs away from home, shipping cremated remains will be far less expensive
than the cost for shipping a body.
An “immediate cremation” is usually the least expensive option on a mortuary price list. A
memorial service without the body present reduces the involvement of funeral personnel and
related expenses. A memorial service can be held at the convenience of family and friends at
any meaningful or desirable location, usually without undue cost.
With cremation, less land and energy are required to inter remains. Also, popular “scattering
gardens” have maximized the potential for disposition of cremated remains in limited
(Eco-Friendly information obtained from Funeral Consumers Alliance
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10: Markers, Headstones
and Monuments
How can I arrange for a flat in-ground marker?
How can I get a granite headstone?
I want a marble monument with an angel on top.
The site you choose as the resting place for your remains may determine the type of marker
or headstone you use. Some cemeteries allow only flat markers set flush with the ground;
some may even specify the material of which the marker must be made; bronze, for example.
Some have special restrictions for different sections of the cemetery. Some mausoleums and
columbarium may have similar restrictions about the type of marker acceptable for the crypt
or niche.
Some things you may wish to consider in selecting a marker, headstone or monument:
• The importance of the marker, gravestone or monument to the family and friends.
• The facility’s guidelines or restrictions, if any.
• The cost of the marker, headstone or monument.
• The cost of installation. Will the cemetery charge a fee? What is included in the fee(s)?
• The incidence of, or likelihood of, vandalism at the site.
• A monument dealer may also sell the same selection and install it at a cheaper price.
• Do not be pressured to make a decision anytime before burial. A memorial is not required
to complete a burial and can be installed long afterward.
Some families consider the marker, gravestone or monument to be a lasting remembrance
of the deceased. Therefore, they may choose to spend less on the casket, which is buried or
placed in a crypt or cremated, than on the marker, gravestone or monument. Consider your
choice about a marker, a gravestone or a monument along with the total costs of the funeral.
Some people say that in hindsight, they wish they had spent less on the casket and more on
the marker, gravestone or monument.
If choosing a marker, headstone or monument, look at other work by the provider, ask friends
for recommendations, and comparison shop. Usually the marker, headstone or monument
will list the person’s name and dates of birth and death. If size allows, it may also include a
favorite phrase, poem or remembrance. It does not need to be placed on the site until after
the funeral, so you have time to make a considered choice long after the burial. Shop around
until you find what you want at the price you want to pay.
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Some helpful consumer tips for cemetery and monument purchases:
• See the license of the individual and the establishment you are working with. Make
sure the license is current.
• If you are told something is required by law, ask to see the law in writing.
• Anything promised should be obtained in writing on the company’s stationery and
signed by someone with authority. Insist that any promise made to you by the seller
be in writing.
• If you decide to enter into a contract, find out about refundability and cancellation
rights, and get it in writing. The law guarantees this be done by the seller.
• Before making a final purchase, make sure you feel comfortable about your
decision. Consult with others such as your family, financial advisor, attorney or
trusted friend for their views.
• Do not purchase anything you cannot financially afford.
• You may cancel the purchase of a casket at any time before it is actually needed for
use, and receive a full refund with accumulated interest.
• For further information, or to register a complaint, contact the Board of Morticians
and Funeral Directors (if about a funeral home), or the Office of Cemetery
Oversight (if about a cemetery or monument dealer).
11: If Death Occurs
My father died in Italy; how can I get him home?
My wife died while visiting Ohio; what should I do?
Death Out-of-State
If your family member or friend dies out-of-state, and you wish to bring the body home for
disposition, make your plans before you agree to have the body moved. Try to use only one
funeral home, since the fee you pay each home will include overhead charges. If you use
the funeral home at which the funeral and burial will be held, it will contact the appropriate
agencies at the distant site to arrange for transfer of the body.
Death Out of the Country
If death occurs out of the country, and the person planning the funeral is in the United States,
contact the nearest embassy or consulate of the nation in which the death occurred. (There are
a few consulates in Baltimore, but most embassies are located in Washington, D.C. To find a
telephone number, contact the Washington, D.C. information operator at 1-202-555-1212.)
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If death occurs out of the country, and the person planning the funeral is in the same country,
contact the nearest United States Embassy for information.
Embassy or consulate staff will be able to help in finding available resources. Consult with
them to determine what services you can arrange and how much they will cost. In some
instances, embalming may not be available (it is not widely practiced in many countries). If it
is not, your choices may be limited to burial in that country or cremation.
12: Costs - What's Included in
the General Price List
What is included in the basic services fee?
What does each fee cover?
How do I know what I’m buying?
When you inquire in person about funeral arrangements, the funeral provider will give you
a General Price List (sample included on page 30) that contains the cost of each funeral item
and service offered. The list must also include information about embalming, caskets for
cremation and required purchases. The information below is taken from the Federal Trade
Commission publication, Complying with the Funeral Rule.
Basic Services Fee
(The fee for the services of the funeral director and staff and overhead which is added to the total
cost of funeral arrangements.) For ceremonies with the remains present, the funeral home may
charge a fee for the basic services it provides. The Funeral Rule requires that this fee must be
disclosed on the General Price List. If charged, it is usually substantial and cannot be declined
by the purchaser. This fee could include a charge for the services of the staff in conducting the
arrangements conference, planning the funeral, securing the necessary permits, preparing
the notices and coordinating the cemetery or crematory arrangements. This fee may also
include overhead not allocated elsewhere, and may be listed in one of two ways:
1. As a separate basic services fee that is not declinable (this fee is already included in charges
for direct cremation, immediate burials and forwarding or receiving remains). The specific
services included in the overhead should be described.
2. It may be included in the casket price, but if this is done, then the overhead fee must
be disclosed separately. This fee will be added to the cost if you provide the casket. The
specific services included in the overhead fee should be described.
Direct Cremation*
A price range must show the price when the consumer provides the casket or container and
a separate price when the container is provided by the funeral home. If the funeral home
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offers direct cremation, it must offer an alternative container for use (such as a pressboard or
cardboard box). The services and container included in each price should be described. This
fee includes the basic services fee.
*The price of the actual cremation of the body may or may not be included in this price. If this is an
additional expense, this must be made clear. If it is paid to a crematory that is not owned by the funeral
home, it may be listed as a cash advance.
Immediate Burial
A price range must be given indicating one price when the consumer provides the casket and
a separate price for each form of immediate burial offered when the funeral home provides a
casket or alternative container.
Forwarding Remains
(The fee for forwarding the remains to another provider. For example, if death occurs in one state
and the funeral is to be in another.) The Funeral Rule states that the price listed for forwarding
remains includes the basic services fee.
Receiving Remains
(The fee for receiving remains from another provider, for example, if death occurs in one state and the
funeral is to be in another.) The Funeral Rule states that the price listed for receiving remains
includes the basic services fee.
The following must be listed separately with their respective prices. The charge should include
all service fees and any equipment or facility charges.
Transferring of Remains to Funeral Home
(The fee for transferring the body from the home, hospital or other location to the funeral home.)
This charge should include all service fees and any equipment or facility charges for providing
the service.
(The process of replacing the blood in the body with a chemical mixture to temporarily slow deterioration.)
The Funeral Rule requires that the General Price List include a disclosure that the law does
not require embalming. It should state:
Embalming is not required by law, except in certain, special cases. Embalming may be desirable,
however, if you select certain funeral arrangements, such as a funeral with a viewing. If you do not
want embalming, you usually have the right to choose an arrangement that does not require you to pay
for it, such as direct cremation or immediate burial.
Prior approval from the party making the arrangements must be given for this service. The
price should include the use of the preparation room, professional services, equipment and
materials involved in the process.
Other Preparation of the Body
(This may include washing and disinfecting the body when there is no embalming and cosmetic work
to prepare the body for viewing.) Individual services and prices should be listed such as for
cosmetology, hairdressing, restoration or clothing (this may be provided by the family or
purchased from the funeral home).
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Use of Facilities and Staff for Visitation
(The fee if visitation is held in the funeral home.) This price should include both staff and facilities
used in conjunction with the viewing. If visitation is held elsewhere, the fee should reflect
only staff services, if they were used.
Use of Facility and Staff for Funeral Ceremony
(The fee if the funeral ceremony, a commemorative service with the body present, is held in the funeral
home.) If it is held at the funeral home, the fee should include the use of both staff and facilities.
If it is held elsewhere, the fee should only reflect staff services if they were used.
Use of Facility and Staff for Memorial Service
(The fee if the memorial service, a commemorative service without the body present, is held in the
funeral home.) If it is held at the funeral home, the fee should include the use of both staff and
facilities. If it is held elsewhere, the fee should reflect only staff services, if they were used.
Use of Staff and Equipment for Graveside Service
(This is the fee for a service held instead of a funeral ceremony at the funeral home or elsewhere.)
If this service is chosen instead of a funeral ceremony at the funeral home or at another
location, the charge should include both staff services and any equipment (such as a tent and
chairs). This is different from a committal service following a funeral ceremony.
(A vehicle which may be used to transport the body.) The method of computing the cost should be
indicated in the price list.
(Vehicles which may be used to transport the family, friends, etc.) The method of computing the
cost should be indicated in the price list.
Casket Prices
(The price list of caskets offered by the funeral home.) These may be listed in either of two ways:
a casket price range may be provided with a disclosure about the availability of the Casket
Price List or the prices of individual caskets can be included in the General Price List.
Outer Burial Container Prices
(Vaults and Liners)
(The price list of outer burial containers (vaults and/or liners) offered by the funeral home.) These
may be listed in either of two ways:
1. The price range for outer burial containers may be shown in the General Price List with a
disclosure about the availability of a separate Outer Burial Container Price List.
2. The prices of individual containers may be included in the General Price List.
NOTE: Many cemeteries and funeral homes both sell caskets and outer burial containers. The
Federal Trade Commission rules do not apply to purchases from cemeteries but Maryland
Law does regulate the sale of these products.
Items not covered by the Funeral Rule
Other items that the funeral home may offer are not covered under the Funeral Rule. These
items may include a Guest Registry book, prayer cards, thank you cards, etc.
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General Price List
Of a Maryland Funeral Home
(Prices in effect April 2007)
This is a price list of an actual Maryland Funeral Home that demonstrates the relative costs
of the items listed. It is not intended to constitute either a preferred pricing or a state median.
Other funeral providers may charge higher or lower prices.
Transfer of Remains to Funeral Home ...........................................................................$
Embalming .........................................................................................................................$
Other Preparation of the Body ........................................................................................$
Basic Services of Funeral Director and Staff..................................................................$ 2,550.00
Use of Facilities and Staff for Viewing (first day) ........................................................$
Use of Facilities and Staff for Funeral Ceremony .........................................................$
Use of Facilities and Staff for Memorial Service ...........................................................$ 3,125.00
Use of Equipment and Staff for Graveside Service ......................................................$
Hearse .................................................................................................................................$
Limousine ...........................................................................................................................$
Direct Cremation ...................................................................................... $ 2,945.00 to $ 6,845.00
Immediate Burial...................................................................................... $ 3,795.00 to $ 4,695.00
Forwarding of Remains to Another Funeral Home .....................................................$ 1,745.00
Receiving of Remains from Another Funeral Home....................................................$ 3,350.00
Caskets .......................................................................................................... $ 900.00 to $40,000.00
Outer Burial Container ............................................................................... $ 900.00 to $12,000.00
Urns ............................................................................................................... $ 240.00 to $ 2,400.00
Visitor and Attendant Books ....................................................................... $ 25.00 to $
Acknowledgement Cards (25 cards/box) .....................................................................$
Printed Prayer Cards (100 cards) ..................................................................................$
Refrigeration (24 hour period or fraction thereof/required
after 12 hours for un-embalmed remains) .......................................................................$ 185.00
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13: Ways to Reduce Costs
What is the least expensive choice?
Do I have to pay for embalming?
May I make my father’s casket?
General Ideas to Reduce Costs:
• Donate your body to a medical school through the Anatomy Board of Maryland. It is the
least expensive choice, since in Maryland, the cost of transporting the body is paid by the
board (if the individual dies in the state). The cremated remains can be returned to the
family, or buried in Sykesville, Maryland following a memorial service.
• Join a nonprofit memorial society while still alive; it can help you arrange for less
expensive funerals and burials.
• Plan for a family member or friend to serve as the funeral coordinator, and conduct all
the viewing and ceremonies at home or in a church, synagogue, temple, fraternal hall
or other public place, and arrange for disposition of the body by cremation or burial on
private land.
• Review the statement of funeral goods and services carefully before you accept it. Make
sure that only the items you want are included.
• Have family or a friend write the obituary and submit it to the newspaper (obtain the
newspaper’s guidelines first) rather than paying the funeral director to do it.
• Ask family or friends to obtain the copies of the death certificate rather than paying the
funeral director to do it. Certified copies of the death certificate may be obtained from the
Maryland State Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, Vital Records Division, 6550
Reisterstown Road (in Reisterstown Plaza), Baltimore, Maryland, 410-764-3038. You may
call and order copies or you may pick them up in person. The fee is $12.00 per copy.
Reduce the Cost of the Casket and Other Burial Containers by:
• Visiting several area funeral homes, cemeteries and internet sellers and comparing their
• Using the Internet to comparison shop.
• Select a liner rather than a vault, which always costs less.
• Choosing a casket without a protective seal or gasket. Even with a protective gasket,
these products cannot permanently protect the body from decay.
• Making the casket yourself, or having friends do so. There are several books with
directions and several wood-workers on the Internet offer plans for sale.
• Using a rental casket if you want a viewing and purchasing a less expensive casket for
burial or entombment. Cremate the body in an alternative container (such as pressboard
or cardboard).
• Purchasing the casket from another source such as the Internet (a funeral home may not
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refuse, or charge a fee, to handle a casket you bought elsewhere).
• Purchasing an inexpensive or moderately priced casket. Ask to see the least expensive
caskets each provider carries.
• Purchasing a casket that doubles as a piece of household furniture (a bookcase, a coffee
table, etc.) until it is needed as a casket.
• Having a local artisan or wood-worker build the casket.
Reduce the Cost of Viewing or Visitation by:
• Not embalming the body. Plan visitation to accommodate this choice.
• Having the viewing or visitation at a private home, in a church, synagogue, temple,
fraternal hall or other facility (make sure the facility is large enough to accommodate the
number of people you expect to attend).
• Conducting the visitation without the body present in a private home, church,
synagogue, temple or other facility.
• Limiting the visitation to one day at the funeral home instead of two or three.
• Purchasing a guest book, thank you cards, prayer cards and other printed material
yourself from local stores or making them yourself on the computer rather than
purchasing them from the funeral home.
Reduce the Cost of the Ceremony by:
• Having it at a private home, in a church, synagogue, temple or other facility (make sure
the facility is large enough to accommodate the number of people you expect to attend).
• Having family or friends provide the music.
• Using garden flowers or greenery instead of flowers from a florist.
• Distributing cash honoraria to the clergy, musicians, etc. yourself, instead of through the
funeral director.
• Having a friend or family member tape the ceremony if you wish to have a tape.
Reduce the Cost of Burial by:
• Using personal cars rather than a limousine and flower car from the funeral home.
• Donating the flowers to a hospital or nursing home and asking family or friends to
deliver them rather than using a flower car.
• Using private land rather than a cemetery for interment.
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14: Things to Do After You
Have Made the Funeral
and Burial/Cremation
What more is there to decide?
What should we place in the casket with her?
After the big decisions have been made, don’t forget all the smaller decisions and plans
that are needed. These include:
• Decide what, if any, jewelry the deceased will wear at the viewing (if there is one) and at
burial or cremation. This is a very individual decision, but it is a permanent decision.
• Determine if you want to place items such as mementos, flowers, pictures, a bible, notes,
etc. in the casket to be buried or cremated with the person.
• Consider what, if any, precautions are needed to prevent theft from the home of the
deceased. Perhaps a house sitter during the funeral and burial may be advisable.
• If receiving visitors at home, remove breakables or valuables from surfaces to prevent
• Contact the post office to forward mail, if the deceased lived alone. You may wish to
notify the landlord and the utilities.
• Check on life insurance policies and death benefits. Sources to check include Social
Security, Veterans Administration (if the deceased was a veteran), railroad retirement,
fraternal organizations, and trade unions.
• Check on payments the deceased may have been making, such as credit card bills,
home or auto loans, house or car insurance. Avoid costly interest payments by notifying
creditors immediately.
• Ask family and friends to share the responsibilities.
Funeral Pre-Planning 2007
15: Paying for the Funeral
Social Security Benefits
Social Security provides a death benefit of $255, if the deceased worked the minimum of 40
quarters required; it is payable to the surviving spouse. Contact your local Social Security
Veterans’ Benefits
Some veterans and their immediate families can be buried in national cemeteries. The plot
is free, but transportation is left to the family. An honorably discharged veteran may receive,
free of charge, the opening and closing of the grave, any required liner, a marker and a United
States flag. Burial sites may not be reserved in advance. Contact your local national cemetery
or the Superintendent, Arlington National Cemetery, Arlington, VA 22211 or call 1-703-6078000.
Maryland has five State Veterans Cemeteries. Call the Maryland Department of Veterans
Affairs at 410-923-6981 for information about eligibility and the pre-application process.
A United States flag for a veteran’s casket and presentation to the family may also be obtained.
Contact your local Veterans Administration office, post office or call 1-800-827-1000.
Union and Fraternal Benefits
People who have worked for the railroad, and some other employers, may be entitled to
funeral or burial benefits. Check with the union or past employers to determine if any are
Social Services Assistance
For individuals receiving Social Services benefits at the time of their death, contact the Social
Services Office in the county in which the individual lived.
Insurance Policies
Death benefit policies are set up to pay only for funeral costs. Life insurance policies may be
set up to pay the beneficiary and this money may be used by that person for the deceased’s
Totten Trust (Revocable Trust)
This is a savings account set up in your name and “in trust for” the relative or friend you
expect to make arrangements for your funeral and/or burial or cremation. Check with your
local financial institution regarding setting up such a trust and about the interest rates. Also,
discuss your plans and wishes with the person you name as your trustee.
Irrevocable Trusts
In Maryland, this is a way for individuals to set aside money for funeral and burial expenses
prior to applying for Medical Assistance. There is no dollar limit, but the money cannot be
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used for any other purpose than the funeral. This trust cannot be revoked once established.
At the time of application for Medical Assistance this money is not considered an asset in
determining eligibility.
16: Before the Need Arises–
Arranging a Pre-Need
Can I pay for everything in advance?
What will my family have to pay for?
In a pre-need contract you purchase part or all of the goods and services related to your
funeral before the need arises. It describes the services you choose and the price in present
dollars. You pay this amount and it is put in an interest-bearing trust account administered
by the funeral home or the cemetery. There are usually some costs that cannot be prepaid.
There are very definite views about the advisability of completing a contract in advance.
• You may save money, since you pay in current dollars.
• You have more control because you are committing to a contract for your family to
• Your family and friends will not have to worry about your funeral.
• If you have no family, it assures that plans have been handled.
• Your plans (and perhaps the money) may be lost if the provider goes out of business.
• If you move, or otherwise change your mind, it may be difficult to transfer the
• If you invested the money, it might earn interest sufficient to cover the effect of inflation.
Tips if you plan to sign a pre-need contract and prepay for goods and services:
• Make sure you know what you are buying; is it only goods such as a casket and/or vault
or does it include services as well?
• Comparison shop before you sign a contract; prices may vary greatly.
• Review the plan carefully and in advance of signing it. You may wish to have your
accountant, attorney or other advisor review it as well.
• Distinguish between goods that are to be delivered to the provider or a storage facility at
the time the contract is signed from those goods that will be provided only at the time of
• Make sure you have a guaranteed price plan so that your family will not need to make
up any increase in cost due to inflation.
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• Make sure your funds earn interest, and report all interest earned by you on your income
tax return.
• Make sure the plan includes provisions for your family to receive any funds that remain
after the arrangements have been completed, unless the money was placed in an
irrevocable trust.
• Find out what will happen to your funds if you want to cancel items or transfer to
another funeral home or cemetery.
• Find out if the cemetery will buy back the gravesite(s) if you change your plans.
• Keep copies of any contract in an accessible location and tell your family and friends
where to find them. Don’t put them in your safety deposit box since immediate access to
that may be impossible at the time of death.
17: What to Do
If You Have Complaints
If you have a problem with a funeral home, monument dealer or cemetery, first try to resolve
it with the company’s manager. If that doesn’t work, the following agencies may be helpful
in mediating disputes and investigating possible violations of the law.
Better Business Bureau of Greater Baltimore
1414 Key Highway, Suite 100
Baltimore, Maryland 21230-5189
fax: 410-347-3936
For Funeral Homes
Maryland State Board of Morticians and Funeral Directors
Department of Health and Mental Hygiene
4201 Patterson Avenue
Baltimore, Maryland 21215-2299
Phone: 410-764-4792
Fax: 410-358-6571
For Cemeteries and Monument Dealers
Maryland Office of Cemetery Oversight
Department of Labor, Licensing and Regulation
500 North Calvert Street
Baltimore, Maryland 21202-3652
Phone: 410-230-6229
Fax: 410-333-6314
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The Federal Trade Commission does not intervene in individual complaints, but the
information you provide may indicate a pattern of possible violations of the law that will
require action by the Commission. Write to:
Consumer Response Center
Federal Trade Commission
600 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
Washington, D.C. 20580
Industry-sponsored Organizations
Cemetery Consumers Service Council (ICCFA)
P.O. Box 2028
Reston, Virginia 20195-0028
Cremation Association of North America
401 North Michigan Avenue
Chicago, IL 60611
Funeral Service Consumer Assistance Program (NFDA)
P.O. Box 486
Elm Grove, WI 53122
18: Resources
Carlson, Lisa. Caring for the Dead: Your Final Act of Love. Hinesburg, VT: Upper Access, Inc.,
Department of Veterans Affairs. Federal Benefits for Veterans and Dependents. Washington, D.C.:
United States Government Printing Office, 1995.
Federal Trade Commission. Complying with the Funeral Rule. Washington, D.C.: Federal Trade
Commission, 1995.
Federal Trade Commission. Funerals: A Consumer Guide. Washington, DC: Federal Trade
Commission, 1996.
Goodman, Rabbi Arnold M. A Plain Pine Box: A Return to Simple Jewish Funerals and Eternal
Traditions. New York: KTAV Publishing House, Inc., 1981.
Harris, Mark, Grave Matters: A Journey Through the Modern Funeral Industry to a Natural Way of
Burial. New York: Scribner, 2007.
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Markin, R.E. The Affordable Funeral-Going Out in Style, Not in Debt. Virginia Beach, VA: F. Hooker
Press, 1998.
Mitford, Jessica. The American Way of Death Revisited. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1998.
Morgan, Earnest. Dealing Creatively with Death: A Manual of Death Education & Simple Burial.
Bayside, New York: Zinn Communications, 1994.
Paynter, MaryAnn and Buck, Marilyn Sue. Survivors’ Handbook: Making Funeral Plans and
Obtaining Benefits When There Is a Death in the Family - Circular 1293. Urbana-Champaign, IL:
College of Agriculture – Cooperative Extension Service.
Shaw, Eva. What to Do When a Loved One Dies. Carlsbad, CA: Writeriffic Publishing Group,
State Anatomy Board. Questions and Answers about the Anatomy Board Donation Program.
Baltimore: State Anatomy Board.
State of Maryland. Maryland Consumers Guide to Cemeteries, Funeral Homes and Monument Dealers.
There are hundreds of groups and their web sites devoted to aspects of funerals, burials,
cremations, memorials or other options. Use your favorite search engine. In addition, many
individual companies have sites, some of them list prices. Here are some organizations to contact
as you begin your search:
Funeral Consumers Alliance of Maryland
and Environs, Inc.
9601 Cedars Lane
Bethesda, MD 20814
Maryland State Anatomy Board (Body
Bressler Research Building, Room B-026
655 West Baltimore Street
Baltimore, Maryland 21201-1559
410-547-1222, 1-800-879-2728
Living Legacy Foundation
(Organ Donation)
1730 Twin Springs Road, Suite 200
Baltimore, Maryland 21227
Maryland State Board of Morticians and
Funeral Directors
Department of Health and Mental Hygiene
4201 Patterson Avenue
Baltimore, Maryland 21215-2299
Phone: 410-764-4792
Fax: 410-358-6571
Maryland Office of Cemetery Oversight
Department of Labor, Licensing
and Regulation
500 North Calvert Street
Baltimore, Maryland 21202-3652
Phone: 410-230-6229
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Maryland State Office of AARP
200 St. Paul Place, Suite 2510
Baltimore, MD 21202
601 E. Street, NW
Washington, DC 20049
AARP is a membership organization for people 50
years of age and older. Funeral-related information
also is available at
Council of Better Business Bureaus, Inc.
4200 Wilson Blvd., Suite 800
Arlington, VA 22203-1838
Better Business Bureaus are private, nonprofit
organizations that promote ethical business
standards and voluntary self-regulation of
business practices.
Cremation Association of North America
401 North Michigan Avenue
Chicago, IL 60611
CANA is an association of crematories, cemeteries,
and funeral homes that offer cremation.
Funeral Consumers Alliance
33 Patchen Road
South Burlington, VT 05403
FCA is a nonprofit educational organization that
supports increased funeral consumer protection.
Their website has free pamphlets on funeral
planning, plus a directory of local volunteer funeral
planning groups.
International Cemetery, Cremation and
Funeral Association
107 Carpenter Drive, Suite 100
Sterling, VA 20164
ICCFA is a nonprofit association of cemeteries, funeral homes, crematories, and monument retailers
that offers informal mediation of consumer complaints through its Cemetery Consumer Service
Council. Its website provides information and advice in its Consumer Resource Guide.
Monument Builders of North America, Inc.
900 Fox Valley Drive, Suite 100
Longwood, FL 32779-2552
MBNA is a trade group of memorial and monument
retailers and other industry members that highlights
memorialization and conducts active consumer
advocacy programs.
National Funeral Directors Association
13625 Bishop’s Drive
Brookfield, WI 53005
NFDA is an educational and professional association of funeral directors, which provides consumer
information on its website and also sponsors the
NFDA Help Line, which is designed to help consumers resolve complaints about NFDA members.
For help & information
regarding resources available to Baltimore County senior citizens
and their families, call Senior Information and Assistance
Funeral Pre-Planning 2007